NIFL Championship round-up, January 30
All the latest from Championship One and Two:
Ballyclare Comrades 1 Knockbreda 3
The Comrades grabbed a fifth minute advantage when a Michael O’Hanlon corner was headed in from three yards by the unmarked Johnny McClurg. The lead didn’t last long as, on 16 minutes, the visitors were on level terms. Jordan Hughes scored from the spot after Jason Johnston had been penalised for a foul in the box. On 20 minutes, Knockbreda were reduced to 10 men when Matthew Johnston was sent off. However, the Comrades couldn’t take advantage and were themselves down to 10 men a minute into first half injury time, when Sandy McDermott picked up a second yellow card. The second half was a tight, evenly-balanced affair until another penalty swung the momentum to Knockbreda on 74 minutes. Simon Hanna converted the spot-kick, and in the 82nd minute, Breda sealed the points when Dylan Wilson fired a low shot from the edge of the box, which eluded the dive of keeper Paul Hughes.
Bangor 1 Annagh United 3
No home comfort for the Seasiders, who were looking for their first home league win since November 7, but slipped to a 1-3 defeat in a scrappy game on a sunny but cold afternoon, thus reversing the result when Bangor had visited Annagh on October 9. Annagh opened the scoring just after the quarter-hour. The break on the left saw Chris McElroy clip the ball inside to the alert Scott McCordick to shoot past home keeper Darren Gibbons from six yards. On 22 minutes, home defender Tommy Wray was judged to have handled the ball on the six-yard line. However, Gibbons made a great save as he dived low to his right to push Jaime Gardiner's spot kick round the left upright. Bangor were back on level terms on 42 minutes, when the alert McDowell was on the spot to head home Gareth Beattie's right-wing cross from six yards inside the far post. The visitors restored their lead on 51 minutes when Scott McCordick's free kick from inside the centre circle eluded the keeper to fly head-high into the net. Bangor pressed to gain parity but paid the price for missed opportunities on 81 minutes, when McCordick completed his hat-trick after Wray allowed the ball to run free for the visitors' danger-man to strike home from the edge of the area.
Larne 2 Loughgall 2
With four debutants in the starting line-up, Larne took time to settle and found themselves a goal down on 13 minutes, when Warner Mullen picked up the ball on the corner of the box and fired a shot high into the net past new Larne stopper Billy Brennan. Loughgall doubled their lead 12 minutes later with a Mullen penalty. Manager Davy McAlinden then made a positive change when he sent on Guillaume Keke for Thomas Robinson, and he was involved in Larne’s opener on 43 minutes. Kevin Bradley’s cross was touched on by the French striker and the ball finally broke to Paul Maguire, who found the net. Just before the break, Larne twice went close to levelling. Keke saw his effort brilliantly tipped over and then Stuart McMullan’s goal-bound header was blocked on the line. The home side then had a let-off when Daniel Ryan’s shot struck the upright and fell kindly for Brennan. Keke and Maguire saw good chances go to waste before the equaliser arrived 20 minutes from time. The ball broke to Ciaran Murray on the left, his shot rebounded off Gareth Buchanan in the Loughgall goal into the path of Keke who tucked it home.
Armagh City 1 H&W Welders 1 (Match abandoned after 70 minutes)
Having cleared the pitch of snow to get the game on, it was disappointing for all not to get it completed as weather eventually won the day. The home side started brightly and made a couple of early chances before Stefan Lavery found the net from a Paul Carvill cross - however, he was adjudged to have been in an offside position. City took the lead just before the quarter-hour mark, when a superb run and cross from the right from Philip Donnelly led to Eamon Kelly firing an unstoppable shot past Dougherty from the edge of the box. The Welders came back strongly and Scott Davidson fired them level 10 minutes later, as he rifled home from an acute angle. There were half-chances at either end, but at the interval, the teams remained deadlocked. Shortly after the start of the second half, yet another snow shower started. Unfortunately this one turned out to be much heavier and longer than previous. Eventually, the markings disappeared and the flow of the ball became effected, leaving referee Taylor no alternative but to abandon the game. Disappointment all round, but full marks to both teams and the officials for their efforts on a difficult afternoon.
Banbridge Town 2 Limavady United 0
The last undefeated record in all three divisions fell at Crystal Park on Saturday, as a much-changed United slumped to a comprehensive defeat. Town were simply far more motivated than their high flying visitors, and in Tuda Murphy, had the man-of-the-match. In the 12th minute, Barr and McGrath burst down the left in tandem, with only Mullan between them and the goal. As Barr passed the ball to his colleague, Wells advanced off his line, but although he was able to block McGrath's first effort, he was unable to prevent McGrath winning the scramble through the mud to blast home the rebound from five yards out. Banbridge went further ahead on 22 minutes, when a cross from the by-line into the six-yard box was met by the diminutive McGrath, who nipped in between the defenders to head home. United needed to start the second half briskly to get back in the game, but once again could have conceded through defensive dithering on 49 minutes, when Barr shot wide after the Roesiders failed to clear the ball. United wasted a golden opportunity on 58 minutes, when, from a corner, Mullan blazed over a close-range effort at the back post. Town were indebted to Murphy, who produced a superb save to deny Paul McIvor on 62 minutes, racing out of his goal to block the striker. The game ended with the league leaders a well-beaten side.